O’Neill warns Marape over ‘improper’ eleventh hour China meeting

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"Wrong timing", says former Prime Minister Peter O'Neill about Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi's visit today during Papua New Guinea's general election campaign. Image: PNG Post-Courier screenshot APR

PNG Post-Courier

Opposition People’s National Congress leader Peter O’Neill is urging Papua New Guinea’s Prime Minister James Marape and the government to refrain from signing any agreements with China when their foreign minister visits Port Moresby today.

“Now is not the right time,” the former prime minister said of the visit by Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, and of any likely deals to be struck between the two countries.

Using more diplomatic words, he said: “A foreign minister of any nation visiting our country is an honour and as a gracious host, PNG would welcome the opportunity to showcase our culture, country, and investment opportunities, especially with a world superpower such as China.”

“Democratic processes such as National General Elections only come around every five years in PNG and the small window of eight weeks of our election timetable should be preserved without international, high-level visits,” he said.

The Chinese top government envoy, who is State Councillor and Foreign Minister, jets into Port Moresby just after midday today for a short visit to meet Prime Minister Marape and Foreign Minister Soroi Eoe.

China and PNG will sign off on a Green Sustainable Development Policy which also covers Trade and Investment and Energy, among other issues.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Elias Wohengu said yesterday that the visit would be brief as he would arrive in the night and would head back to China after meeting Eoe and paying a courtesy call on Marape.

Bilateral meeting tomorrow
He said that the official bilateral meeting would be held on Friday morning with Eoe.

“The meeting will be minister-plus nine on both sides,” Wohengu said.

“Thirty minutes after the meeting, he will make courtesy call on Prime Minister James Marape before he flies out of the country to China.

“He will sign one agreement, which is the Green Sustainable Development Policy.

“On the security status of PNG, we will deal with it ourselves.

“He is coming back on his return trip to China from his Pacific Islands Forum ministers meeting which was held yesterday, co-chaired it physically out of Suva.

PNG the ‘last lap’
“So on his return lap, his last country visit is PNG before he flies out.

“He was in Fiji and also visited other Pacific Island countries.

“There has been resentment over Pacific Agreement on security matters.”

China has said it is willing to make joint efforts with PNG to inject stronger impetus into the overall development of relations between China and the Pacific Island countries.

“Both as developing countries, China is also willing to, together with Papua New Guinea, strengthen strategic coordination, and jointly voice maintenance for multilateralism and support for free trade in various international arenas,” it has said.

O’Neill said in his statement that writs for the elections were issued on May 12 dissolving the current Parliament and Members of Parliament were now contesting the election and should not sign any agreements on behalf of the State, particularly with China.

“All election related preparations have been made or should have been made well in advance and any donations of security equipment or agreements for China to provide security or election support this late in the timetable is improper,” he said.

‘Superpower tensions’
“Tensions in the region between global superpowers from the West and China are driving foreign leaders to give a high amount of attention to the Pacific.

“These tensions that exist between larger countries are not our doing and we should not be unnecessarily caught up as these larger nations shadowbox.

“We desperately need partnerships with high quality investors to lift the standards of living for our people, but they must comply with our procurement laws and be done in a transparent way to ensure the best returns for our people.

“There are some Chinese companies and, indeed, some Singaporean and Australian companies, who have not been subject to normal procurement procedures that warrant urgent investigation.”

O’Neill said Marape should not have encouraged this visit which draws PNG into a regional and global matter that it does not have any business on choosing sides.

  • Papua New Guinea’s general election is July 9-22.

Republished with permission.

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